Interview with Isabel Costello
I am delighted to welcome Isabel Costello to my blog today. Isabel’s book, ‘Paris Mon Amour’ was published as an eBook last June by Canelo. I asked Isabel some questions.
Firstly, can you tell me a bit about your debut novel, Paris Mon Amour?
At the heart of the book is the intense affair between 40-year-old Alexandra and a much younger man, Jean-Luc, who’s the son of her husband’s best friend. It’s definitely a love story first and foremost, but it’s also about family ties, living with the past and what it means to ‘belong’ in another country and culture. Alexandra is American, her husband Philippe is French and she’s lived in Paris for ten years.
I fell in love with the cover of your book when I first saw it. Who designed it?
Thank you! I’m thrilled the cover has been such a hit with readers. It’s the work of Dan Mogford, who specialises in publishing and book cover design. It made a big difference that Dan really ‘got’ the novel – the smashed lily, based on an image by Australian photographer Anna Thomas, captures the essence of the story perfectly.
What made you decide to write this book?
It arose from my deep frustration at the double standards by which men and women are judged, never more so than when it’s about looks, ageing and sex. But that doesn’t make a novel – I knew I’d need a strong plot and characters who’d really pull the reader in, and the story took shape fairly quickly.
How long did it take you to write?
About 18 months. As it was closely based on a short story which already had a complete narrative arc I had a clear idea where I was going with it from the start – that’s how I like to approach a novel. It was very intense, but I loved writing it.
Did you have to do any research?
Since my main interest is human nature and the way people feel and behave in different situations, life experience is more important to my writing than ‘book research’ – sometimes it’s an advantage being a mature debut author! But I did a lot of on-site research in Paris, even though I already knew the city well. Rather than rehashing the tourist version, I wanted to see it through my character’s eyes and gain a deeper understanding by talking to people who live there.
Can you relate to any of your characters?
Paris Mon Amour is a frank first person narrative dealing with sensitive and exposing issues, and I couldn’t have written it without feeling for my protagonist Alexandra. Although the novel isn’t autobiographical in the obvious sense, there’s a fair bit of me in her, but many aspects of her personality and experience demanded a lot of imagination. Going deeply into my characters’ heads is the part I enjoy most – I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be someone else.
How easy was it to get your book published?
‘Easy’ is not a word I associate with getting published and following several near misses, this book nearly didn’t make it out there. But perseverance is essential, and so is having people willing to believe and invest in your work. I’m lucky to have a very committed agent and publisher who’ve enabled me to share Alexandra’s story with readers.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently outlining my next novel, also set in Paris, and will start my first draft in the new year. Suddenly it’s really coming together, which is exciting!
Have you been given any good advice about writing?
The best was from Lionel Shriver, who said ‘write what matters to you – it’s the only way you can be certain your time is well spent’. The advice to ‘take risks’ and ‘be bold’ also resonates and just as well, as I seem to be naturally drawn to subjects people often avoid talking about.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love swimming and walking, cooking, art, cinema – and reading, of course. Running the Literary Sofa takes up a lot of my time but it’s a labour of love.
If you could have dinner with just one author, who would it be?
That is SO hard to answer! My first instinct was to choose a certain male novelist I’ve already met, but instead I’m going to go with the author I’d most like to meet: A M (Amy) Homes. I love her writing (especially This Book Will Change Your Life), she’s smart and witty and I reckon she’d be fun and interesting to talk to. And if we get to do it in New York City, that would be a bonus!
About Isabel Costello
Isabel Costello’s debut novel Paris Mon Amour is available in digital (Canelo) in the UK, USA and Canada and in audiobook worldwide (Audible). She hosts the Literary Sofa blog, where you can find her new quarterly book selection, the Winter 2016 Sofa Spotlight. She’s also on Twitter @isabelcostello
‘Paris Mon Amour’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-
I’m going to guess Garth Greenwell!